The Library **

‘If you’re going to fail, fail big.’  So said one of my mentors at university when speaking about making art.  His point was simple: for the arts to remain relevant it has to take big risks, and so it’s better for something to blow up in its creator’s face in failed ambition than for it to be a safe, guarded attempt at something.

Sacha Kyle’s The Library is one of the ‘safest’ productions I have seen in quite some time.  It has high ambitions and some very good ideas, but hardly any of them are manifested fully.  It’s like a meal that has excellent ingredients but is served bland.  I’m not quite sure where the fault lies, or if there is indeed any fault at all.  It’s a competent piece of theatre, it’s well designed, all of the performances are good and there are some very effective moments.  And yet it doesn’t gel together.

My biggest question of the production is this: why was Kyle granted the coveted Directors Award?  A glance at the programme shows how experienced, and connected, she is.  In fact, some rather impressive people have assisted Kyle in this very production.  Is the Award meant to go to people who already have begun to establish a career in the arts, or is it meant to support an up-and-coming artist who needs guidance and attention?

Mentoring schemes are a vital component to the arts.  They allow for the next generation to integrate into the arts community through their own creative endeavours while being coached by experienced practitioners.  Part of me feels as if giving this to Kyle took away someone else’s opportunity, someone else who truly needs to be mentored and guided and needed a safety net to allow them to ‘fail’.

Sadder yet, Kyle herself doesn’t seem ambitious enough with this production.  This does not feel like the production of someone who has already worked with the Arches, Dance House and the Lyceum and already has extensive international work.  Nor does this seem like a brand new style or theory that an established artist wanted to experiment with, looking at ways of broadening their practice.  This feels more like a student director’s final project.  It ticks all of the boxes that one usually finds in student theatre: clever scene shifts, over-use of music and movement, shallow characters and more focus on directional movement than conveying character or plot.

The production gives strong evidence to the great potential that Kyle has as an arts practitioner.  I greatly look forward to her next production and hope that she manages to artistically express far more ambition and daring than is presented here.  Still, I have to question the choice in giving such a great opportunity to someone who already has the experience that is touted in Kyle’s programme notes.  Has this great scheme become a matter of ‘who you know’?

The Library is not a failure, nor is it a success.  What it is, in the end, is the very worst thing that such a production could have been: it’s simply mediocre.

Performing at the Traverse this week.

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